Owner rubbing his dog belly, in grass.

If you are training an older adoption dog or a puppy in positive reinforcement methods, you need to learn from your dog what the preferred reward system will be. Positive training uses rewards of touch and praise, food, play and toys.  Most every dog should respond (we hope) to at least one of these.

Positive touch as a reward for wanted skills or behavior includes petting, rubbing, close personal contact and massage. Withholding these can help to shape a behavior you are desirous of eradicating.

If a dog is persistently acting out in a way you don’t like, such as excessive barking, jumping or growling, withhold eye contact, touch and praise and instead verbally correct. This can help to shape what you want.

If the dog stops doing the unwanted behavior, you can share touch, affection and praise. If not, ignore him or remove him from your presence and from all opportunities for contact.

When teaching a skill, touch, along with your voice, can also be used as your reward system for doing the desired skill. Dogs not motivated by treats may prefer contact with you and a soft rewarding voice.

Many dogs prefer play and toys. Play would mean interactive play with a human or dog – such as running, chasing, teasing or giving the dog a toy, tugging, fetching, going to a dog park, or play with a dog buddy.

The proper way to use these rewards is to offer them after you have worked with your dog on obedience skills or behavior modification and not before. There becomes an association of work first and play afterward.

This is much like a child you are trying to get to do her homework – work first, then she may go outside or play with a friend.

Training a dog that is food-motivated is much easier. Different types of food or treat rewards can get a dog’s attention at different levels. If you are working on a skill that the dog just doesn’t get, or a skill that is tedious to him, you can up the level of treat to something referred to as “high value.”

High value treats should be used only when necessary, or the dog will hold out for them and not work for something tasty but of a lesser value. High value treats are great for good manners training and also for the stay and come commands. They include small pieces of jerky treats, freeze dried treats, stinky things such as meat rolls, human food such as chicken, turkey or cheese. These will create attention like you have never seen before!

Whatever you try is not based upon what you would like, but rather what you discern will get the most attention from your dog. Take the time to figure that out and your positive training will be much more successful.

Abby Bird is the owner of Alphadog Training Academy. AlphadogTrainingAcademy@gmail.com